Sensory Center

Here's the first post in my mini-series on center time! I'll try to get these out every Friday. I'm starting with Sensory Center because it is probably my favorite center! When I had to switch to first grade this year, I reluctantly took out some of my centers, but I made sure that sand & water table stayed in place!

I call it Sensory Center rather than Sand & Water Center because there is so much more that can go into a sand & water table than just sand & water! I try to change out my table every week or two to keep the interest in it high, so I've gotten good at finding low cost materials to fill it! Today I'm going to share some ideas with you about making this center one of the most fun AND educational in your classroom.

If you don't have a sand & water table don't worry. There are ways to work around that! I've made a new Pinterest Board for Sensory Center ideas. Just click here and you will see some fabulous ideas for creating your own low-cost sand & water table!

I have to point out another valuable resource: Tom Bedard's blog Sand And Water Tables. I could spend hours reading all of his posts! He has such creative ideas for enhancing basic sand & water play!

 Another resource I love is:
 This book has a ton of neat ideas for enhancing your sand & water table play!

Suppose that you have a sand and water table (or want to have one!) and an administrator or parent questions the value of this "play".  Here are some of the benefits of a sensory center:

Social Development: At the sensory center, children are playing in close proximity to one another and have to learn to share the space and materials - this gives them plenty of practice with sharing, turn taking and compromise. They begin to be more aware of others and how their actions affect them - for instance when they bump into another child and that child accidentally spills the cup of sand they were holding. Adding things like boxes, tubes and different levels to the table will give the children opportunities to work cooperatively to solve problems or achieve a goal - "Let's pour all of the beans down the tube!"

Language Development: The sensory table provides great opportunities for children to expand their vocabularies and practice their story telling skills! As children play, they naturally talk about what they are doing. The sensory center provides endless opportunities for descriptive language. Words like, icy, bumpy, smooth, slimy, squishy, rough, soft, fuzzy and soapy are all words that you might hear depending on the materials in the center. Positional words will also be used - over, under, beneath, on top of, next to, behind. As children use their imaginations, they will begin to develop stories about their play "My firetruck is racing to a fire. Oh no! It's stuck in the tube!"

Math Concepts: With different materials, children will learn about capacity. They will learn what "full" means when they overpour a cup and the sand spills out. They will compare and measure: "My pile is bigger than yours." or "This cup is heavy!" There are opportunities for counting, estimating and basic addition and subtraction "I'm going to put more rocks in my pile. Look how big it is now!"

Science Concepts:  the sensory center is a great place to experiment with simple machines like inclined planes (a slide made out of a cardboard box to pour the sand down), funnels and wedges. Concepts of gravity and force are learned as by products of play at the sensory center - when a child twists his wrist and the sand spills out of a cup he's holding that's gravity in action! A child will learn that stirring soapy water vigorously will produce more bubbles than merely swishing the water.

What kind of materials can you use in the sensory center?

The sky is the limit, but here is a small list:
pompoms, birdseed, dried beads, spices, field corn, rice, water beads , seashells, marbles, sticks, stones, gemstones, shredded paper, shaving cream, cooked spaghetti, dry macaroni noodles, pine cones, soil, leaves, grass clippings, coffee beans, oatmeal, cornmeal, packing peanuts, bubble mix, instant snow, ice, yarn, ribbons, aquarium gravel and plastic aquarium plants.

What tools and toys should you have in the sensory center?

spoons, funnels, measuring cups, tongs, tweezers, egg beaters, buckets, basters, eye droppers, sponges, cookie cutters, egg cartons, strainer, spray bottles, scoops, pie plates, ice cube trays, margarine tubs and strawberry baskets.

You can also add small plastic animals, plastic eggs, cars - basically any small toy!

I hope that this encourages you to include a Sensory Center in your classroom! I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas too, just Rustle Up a Comment below!

There's also still time to enter my flash giveaway! Just click to go over to that post and let me know which set of center signs you'd like to win before midnight tonight! I've added a few more themes to my store too:
 Teddy Bears - I just love these!

 Yeehaw Cowboy! This one has the cutest boots and horseshoes too!

Ocean themed. I love the calm blues and greens - and the sweet seahorses!

Someone asked for pocket chart cards as well, so I'm going to work on getting some of those made up for each theme too. I have the Owls Themed Cards in my TPT store already:

2 Rustle Up A Response!:

Kelly said... Reply to comment

Wow, that's a lot of great information. I always had a sensory table when I taught kdg, but never even consider it for first grade. You've given me a lot to think about.

Kelly @ I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

Mrs. Lindsey said... Reply to comment

I LOVE the instant snow! I'm a new follower :)

Lovin’ Kindergarten